Monday, June 7, 2010

Political Reality Bites Political Scientist, Part 4

With passage of time and more experience, it has become increasingly difficult to respect Members of Congress. In the course of my career (I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel all over the world and lecture and/or advise on the flat tax), I have happened to be in a foreign country at the same time as a Congressional delegation ostensibly engaging in a fact-finding mission of some sort. Known as Congdels, or in less flattering language Congressional “junkets,” most include members’ spouses or traveling companions, most are several days long with a morning or no more than a day of “inquiry,” most schedule extra time for sport or sightseeing (invariably in good weather, often with beaches), and tie up the time of embassy personnel who do their best to show the visiting delegation a good time. Fact-finding missions being an integral part of Congressional inquiry are, needless to say, paid for with taxpayers’ funds.

The nation’s fifty governors also know how to mix business and pleasure. To accommodate a growing number of supporters and donors, the Hoover Institution switched its venue for the annual winter meeting of the Board of Overseers from the Madison Hotel to the historic Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. Several meetings coincided with the annual governors’ meeting in Washington, which provided an opportunity to observe the social sidelights of the gathering. Among the activities were lavish dinners and dancing in the best restaurants, while staff aides ate nearby in less lavish settings. Meetings typically include a visit to the White House for a photo-op.

The replacement of political sunshine with adark clouds has little to do with partisanship, personality, region, or narrow interest group agenda. J’accuse applies equally to all, including the executive branch of government.

Political reality will be the subject of a subsequent series of posts, itemizing several dozen norms and behaviors of a broken system of government,. They will explain why Americans have such a low approval rating of the federal government with its numerous branches, committees, and agencies. As it is all too easy to cast brickbats at public institutions and office holders, I will set forth a reform agenda that resurrects the institutions and operations of our government to serve the people, not itself. Many will find these proposals utopian, with little likelihood of coming into being. But Joseph Schumpeter’s three stages of knowledge has been illustrated with wacky ideas when first proposed becoming common sense once they had gain public currency.

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